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CNN Faces Backlash After Apology From Reddit User Behind Trump Bodyslam Video

How quickly the Internet tides turn: CNN is facing a backlash for its handling of a story about the Reddit user who created the video depicting President Donald Trump delivering a bodyslam to CNN.

The Reddit user, who has not been publicly identified by name beyond his handle of “HanA–holeSolo,” posted a lengthy apology on Tuesday for crafting the CNN video and for previous Reddit posts widely deemed racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic. He apologized to CNN and to members of the Reddit community for dragging them into controversy that erupted on Sunday when Trump tweeted out the CNN bodyslam video — crafted from an old WWE appearance by Trump prior to his election. The 28-second video depicts Trump tackling a person ringside at a wrestling match whose head has been replaced with the red CNN logo.

Trump’s tweet sparked condemnation and criticism across the political spectrum last week, with some suggesting that the video could incite violence against CNN employees and other journalists. But late Tuesday, CNN began facing accusations of “blackmail” in an online story headlined “How CNN found the Reddit user behind the Trump wrestling GIF.”

CNN asserted in the story by Andrew Kaczynski that it had uncovered the man’s name but decided not to publish it in light of his apology. The Reddit user has deleted his prior posts, including one that featured photos of prominent CNN employees with Jewish stars next to their names.

However, a caveat in the story regarding the possibility of disclosure in the future has sparked anger.

“CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again,” Kaczynski wrote. “In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same. CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

A CNN source said there was no intention to pressure the Reddit user but rather to emphasize that they made the decision to spare him from being outed publicly because of what they perceived as the sincerity of his apology. The man, described by CNN as middle-age despite assertions on social media that he is 15, posted the apology and then contacted Kaczynski by telephone.

In a statement CNN said it opted not to publish his name “out of concern for his safety” and strongly asserted that there was no quid pro quo in the user’s apology and the decision to keep his identity private.

“Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him is false,” the statement said. “The user, who is an adult male not a 15-year-old boy, apologized and deleted his account before ever speaking with our reporter. CNN never made any deal, of any kind, with the user. In fact, CNN included its decision to withhold the user’s identity in an effort to be completely transparent that there was no deal.”

The latest flap highlights the contentious relationship between the Trump administration and mainstream media outlets, and it also underscores the hot-house environment of social media. In his apology, the Reddit user claimed that his past offensive posts were the result of an “addiction” to seeing if he could get a rise out of other users with extreme statements. The user insisted he “never meant any of the hateful things I said in those posts.” He said the Trump-CNN video was “a prank, nothing more.”

White House sources, meanwhile, have told CNN and ABC News that the video Trump tweeted was not taken from Reddit. The video in Trump’s tweet featured a soundtrack that was not found in the Reddit user’s original GIF.

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